Most construction sites experience both high activity levels and dangerously loud noise levels. The two together can result in many dangerous situations if appropriate safety measure are not taken. Awareness of an individual’s surroundings and use of proper hearing protection can help prevent potential accidents and damage from occurring.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) sets the maximum acceptable level of background noise on a construction site at 90 dBA. If noise levels are below this limit, it is highly recommended to wear protective gear to prevent potential hearing loss. At levels of 90 dBA or above, ear protection is essential to prevent damage or complete loss of hearing.
In addition to this, if the noise level on a construction site is at 85 decibels or higher and workers are expected to be exposed to it for eight hours or more, the employer is required to create a hearing conservation program for the site. Many construction sites commonly exceed this noise level, and project managers should factor in programs to protect workers. Individuals on the site should always wear the protective gear and follow safety procedures as instructed by site management.
Protective gear for prevention of hearing damage and loss due to construction site noise levels is straightforward. OSHA requires that some protective gear, such as earplugs, be provided to all construction site workers by employers and independent contractors. Earplugs provide some protection to workers on site that are exposed to high noise levels. Other protective gear is available for construction sites with extreme noise levels.
Another safety precaution for construction site workers is to remain aware of their surroundings. When their hearing is dampened by noise and hearing protection equipment, it can be difficult for workers to realize who or what is around them. Encourage workers to ensure they are aware of the people and equipment near them to prevent potential accidents. This can be specifically addressed in special training courses.
An additional difficulty that some construction site managers may encounter is lack of compliance regarding hearing protection. The protective equipment can be hot, especially in areas with extreme temperatures or during summer. The gear can also be generally uncomfortable. To help enforce compliance, hearing protection should be noted in safety training courses.
The training is often not complicated, and can be offered in several languages if necessary. The training emphasizes that hearing is an ability that, once lost, cannot come back. The use of the protective gear should be described or demonstrated to employees so that there are no questions about what is considered acceptable use. Different states may have different requirements on types of protection recommended, and they may differ based on the expected noise levels as well. Researching the requirements for the area of the construction project is recommended.
For more information about construction site safety, contact T.F. Harper & Associates LP headquartered in Austin, TX.